Do you enjoy playing games? I do. Every game comes with its own special set of rules. To really enjoy the game as it was intended, everyone must play by the rules. Have you ever played a game with someone who didn’t follow the rules? Do you always follow the rules?
There are rules that we must follow in the game of life too. The Bible is the rulebook we must follow in life. To really enjoy life the way God intended, it is important to follow His rules.
Prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, various factions within Judaism were vying for control of religious practice in Roman occupied Israel. While the Chief Priests and Herodians held control of the Temple, they were viewed with suspicion by the majority of Jewish people because of their associations with the Romans. The Sadducees, while not directly connected to the Temple, insisted that the proper focus for Jewish devotion to God remained in the Temple—even under Roman control. They also followed only the written books of the Law, which they often interpreted differently from the Pharisees. The Pharisees disagreed with the Sadducees on many points, following a written and oral Law and studying God’s Word in synagogues, thereby deemphasizing the role of the Temple.
Each group had scribes whose job it was to interpret the law. However, these scribes were not the rabbis or priests in charge of the interpretation; they were more generally associated with the proclamation of the law for the group with which they were associated. And so the people often saw scribes as lacking in authority. It is into this environment that Jesus was born; and it is in this environment that Jesus taught.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day liked to sit around and discuss the law. They would sometimes ask Jesus questions about the law to try to trick him into saying something that would cause people to turn against him. One day they were questioning Jesus and he answered them with one good answer right after another. A Jewish teacher of the Law came in and heard that Jesus was giving good answers and he asked him, “Of all of the commandments, which is the most important?”
Jesus answered him, “The most important one is this, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
There are a lot of rules in the Bible. It may sometimes be difficult to remember all of them. If we can just remember and obey the two commandments that Jesus said were the most important, all of the rest would follow. Then we would enjoy life the way God intended it.
A scribe of the Pharisees would find it particularly difficult to make their laws simple and meaningful: 613 statutes comprise the oral law with 365 prohibitions to coincide with the number of days in the year and 248 commandments to equal the reputed number of generations of man. Attempting to make this morass meaningful, scribes divided the statutes into “weighty” and “light” categories and cross-classified them as “ritual” or “ethical” laws. The need for meaning in the Law also kept before them the challenge to develop a single, simple, working principle that would encompass all of the other statutes. When the scribal expert asked Jesus, “Which is the first commandment of all?” he must have had this challenge in mind. At least, Jesus’ answer made that assumption.
After Jesus answered in a few short sentences the question that absorbed centuries of scribal time and energy, His intellectual protagonists lost their daring and left, knowing that He would have to be faulted on something other than His words. From that point on, no one dared to ask Him a question.
When Jesus answered the scribe’s question, there was a great meeting and agreement between the Christian and Jewish traditions: that love of God had precedence over all other religious requirements, observances, and loyalties. This love of God requires that we give all of ourselves, and when that is given, love for our neighbours will be the visible symbol of our love for God.
Jesus took the Pharisees’ question one step further by identifying the second greatest commandment because it was critical to an understanding of the complete duty of love. This commandment, also from the books of Moses is of the same nature and character as the first. Genuine love for God is followed in importance by a genuine love for people.
The Law of Moses was a burden for the people, but faith in Christ is simple and light. God was willing to forgive us and love us. In return, He expects us to love Him and our neighbour. The more we understand God’s love, the more we will love Him back, the more time we will spend in prayer learning about Him and developing a relationship with Him, and the more our love for Him will grow.
Christianity is all about love. How do we define love? What does it mean in practice? The answer to both of these questions involves discernment. The Holy Spirit will tell us how, when and where to love. We can love God with our emotions, our actions, and our minds. God’s love seeps into every area of our lives and challenges us to love others with our head, our heart and our hands.
The phrase “love as I have loved you” makes Jesus the standard by which to measure our love. Jesus doesn’t love people who deserve love, and God’s love isn’t based on our worthiness or performance but upon His choice. This type of love is what a husband should have for his wife, parents for their children, and Christians for each other.
This type of love can be hard to show, especially when we’re going through life’s trials. People are going to hurt us, do unfair things, abandon us when we need them the most, and say things that will hurt us, but we can let it go. We can give it to God. God has blessed us too much to spend one moment of life being angry. There will be times when we have to fight and argue, but most of the time we can just let it go. We don’t need to hold a grudge. We can love people just where they are. No one is perfect.
There are ten ways to love other people:
- Listen without interrupting.
- Speak without accusing.
- Give without sparing.
- Pray without ceasing.
- Answer without arguing.
- Honour others above yourself.
- Enjoy without complaint.
- Trust without wavering.
- Forgive without punishing
- Live and love as a child of God.
When the people we know think of Christians what do they think? Do they think of Jesus’ love and kindness, or do they think of people who are judgmental, opinionated or hypocritical? Jesus is clear about the impression he wants us to make in the world. That is why Jesus created the two Great Commandments.
Are you letting your light shine? This beat-up world is watching us and wondering if our faith is genuine. They don’t expect us to perfect, but they do expect to see some evidence that the love of Christ is real. How can they know it is real unless we let it shine? The kingdom of God is built and maintained by love. Christ’s love for us the only hope and remedy for our sick world. If we are Christians, Christ’s love is ringing very loudly for us to remember it and practice it.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 1366)
- Amy Lindeman Allen,” To Love and to Disagree.” Retrieved from https://politicaltheologytoday.com/to-love-and-to-disagree-mark-1228-34/
- “Rules to Live By.” Retrieved from https://www.sermons4kids.com/rules_to_live_by.html
- McKenna, D.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 25: Mark (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 19822, pp. 242-245)
- Macarthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 31st Sunday (b), Nov. 14, 2018.” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
- David Peary, “Beyond the Rule Books.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bill Crowder, “Power of Simplicity.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Skip Heitzig, “Christianity in a Nutshell.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Bobby Schuller, “From Blessed to Worry.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Carol Around, “No Other Commandment is Greater than These.” Retrieved from www.carolaround.com
- Thee Rev. Dr. Charles Reeb, “Lose the Cape.” Retrieved from http://day1.org/8293-charley_reeb_lose_the_cape.print
- The Rev. Genechis Desta Buba, “Kingdom Built by Love.” Retrieved from http://day1.org/492-kingdom_built_by_love.print